UN declares famine in southern Somalia

a woman with her severely malnourished young child in a camp in Somalia

Famine has been declared in two regions of southern Somalia – southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. The United Nations says that 3.7 million people across the country, that's nearly half of the Somali population, are now in crisis and in urgent need of assistance. An estimated 2.8 million of those are in the south.

Consecutive droughts have affected Somalia in the last few years while the ongoing conflict has made it extremely difficult for aid agencies to get access to communities which are most in need.

It was only recently that Al Shabaab, a group which controls large swathes of south and central Somalia, requested international assistance in the south.

Mark Bowden, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, says that malnutrition rates are currently the highest in the world, with peaks of 50 per cent in certain areas of southern Somalia.

"It's very serious. Two regions have met the criteria for declaration of famine conditions to exist and it's likely that a number of other regions will slip into that state within the next month. It will continue to deteriorate but there's still an opportunity to save lives while that happens. The next two months are critical. The crisis itself won't see any change in material conditions on the ground until December or January next year."

Famine is only declared when acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30 per cent; more than two people per 10,000 die per day; and when people are not able to access food and other basic necessities.

Mr Bowden says that around 300 million dollars is needed over the next two months to help those in most urgent need of assistance.

Duration: 28″

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